After a perfect start in the qualifiers in New Zealand with a 54-51 win against Papua New Guinea on Tuesday (CI time), the Black Pearls took on Fiji last night.
Fiji, at 12 in the world, is the top-ranked side in the five-team qualifier, ahead of Samoa at 15, the Cook Islands at 17, Papua New Guinea at 18, and Tonga, who is unranked.
Heading into yesterday’s match, national coach Dale Wilson said these world qualifiers were another level of competition.
“We’ve got Fiji coming back from the Commonwealth Games so they would have been exposed to some fantastic netball,” Wilson told Radio New Zealand.
“Samoa are ranked 15th and PNG, who currently sit on the rankings just below us, but actually they’ve been bordering on qualifying for the worlds for the last few years, so it’s going to be a really tough competition.”
The national team had a good campaign last year, where the side recorded six wins over Swaziland, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Ireland and Singapore to bag the Nations Cup in December.
The team retained eight players from that campaign, with five from Rarotonga, five from New Zealand and two from Australia.
“There are three players in particular who have a reasonable amount of experience. Luciana Nicholas, who is the daughter of Margaret Matenga the former Silver Fern, Ashleigh Iro (captain) and Eri Te Ana Short (vice-captain),” Wilson said.
“They have fantastic natural skill. I never have to worry about things like passing and catching and some of those basic skills because they are naturally good at them.
“They just have a natural style. I like to think they’ve got a bit of flair.”
Cook Islands will play Samoa and Tonga in its remaining matches.
The top two from this qualifier will make it through to the World Cup in Liverpool.
- Rashneel Kumar/RNZ